Private Inflatable Space Station in Orbit

Ted Coombs

Bigelow Aerospace has put an inflatable space station in orbit, capable of housing nearly 20 people at a time. Astronauts who have seen the mockup on the ground say, "Wow." Hotel magnate, Robert Bigelow personally financed the building of this space station.

A sister station will be launched in two years, bringing the capacity to 38 people. Leave it to the guy who created the Budget Hotel chain to bring affordable living to space.

In March 2013, Bigelow signed an agreement with NASA to act as "the central link between NASA and dozens of private companies that want to play a role in the creation of a new economy a space economy, including proposals far more complex than mere space tourism: research, manufacturing, medicine and agriculture. The agreement calls for Bigelow to liaison between NASA and the private sector to see how the U.S. government and industry could help each other.